26 Then Abner called to Joab, “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” (2 Samuel 2:26)
2 Samuel begins with a lot of senseless bloodshed. On two separate occasions, messengers who believed they were bringing good news to David are killed because of the message they bring (See 2 Samuel 1:14-16 and 4:9-12).
Then, in 2:12-17, twenty-four soldiers all seem to die at once when the armies of Ish-bosheth and David meet at the pool of Gibeon. The language of the narrative just seems to highlight the stupidity of it:
12 Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13 And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool. 14 And Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.” And Joab said, “Let them arise.” 15 Then they arose and passed over by number, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16 And each caught his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent's side, so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is at Gibeon.
After that, in what may be the first recorded case of road rage, Abner kills Asahel, apparently for following too closely:
9 And Asahel pursued Abner, and as he went, he turned neither to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner. 20 Then Abner looked behind him and said, “Is it you, Asahel?” And he answered, “It is I.” 21 Abner said to him, “Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and seize one of the young men and take his spoil.” But Asahel would not turn aside from following him. 22 And Abner said again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?” 23 But he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died where he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.
And it just goes on. In 3:26-30, Joab kills Abner dishonorably. Using the pretense of a private conversation, he pulls him off to the side and stabs him in the stomach. Then, in chapter 4, Ish-bosheth is murdered in his own bed.
In the midst of this, Chapter 3 notes that David has six sons from six women. Then he insists that Michal, Saul’s daughter who is by this point married to another man, is brought back to him as a spoil of war. There’s no sense that he loves Michal; only that he wants her (2 Sam. 6:23 says that she and David did not have any children together, so this demand to bring her back apparently was not because he missed his wife. It just seems petty). And we know that a few chapters from now, David is going to take an eighth wife, Bathsheba, after killing her husband.
Geez. The only thing that keeps this from seeming excessive is that David’s son Solomon had 700 wives. Maybe the song should have said, “David has married his thousands, and Solomon his ten thousands.” Or maybe that was the second verse.
So, these episodes don’t read like glorious war stories from a godly kingdom but like gangland executions. and soap opera intrigue. And they remind us that Scripture is often descriptive and not prescriptive. The first chapters of 2 Samuel describe how human beings are: messy, violent, rage-filled, petty.
Even when we are talking about David, the man who was supposed to be a man after God’s own heart, we are reminded that there is only one true Hero in all of Scripture. Every human being falls short. Every human being has blood on his hands.
Only Jesus is lifted up. Jesus didn’t have blood on His hands. Instead blood came from his hands. His head. His feet. Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
And covers all my warfare and my wickedness.